Tag Archives: Christmas

Film: Miracle on 34th Street


The American Film Institute has named Miracle on 34th Street number 9 on its list of most inspiring films, and the number 5 fantasy film. Uploaded by katiethoughts.wordpress.com.

Does Santa Claus really exist? Edmund Gwenn has made believers out of generations of movie lovers thanks to his performance as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. This film, which also starred Maureen O’Hara and a very young Natalie Wood, is in the pantheon of Christmas classics that are a must-see every Christmas season. For me, the other movies in that category are Scrooge (the musical with Albert Finney), It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and White Christmas.

Uploaded to Flickr by djabonillojr.2008.

20th Century-Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck was not enthusiastic about making this movie. It seemed just too corny for him. Director George Seaton eventually won him over, but only after agreeing to direct the next three films of Zanuck’s choosing. Zanuck also believed that the largest audience for movies is in the summer, so in spite of Miracle on 34th Street’s content, he dictated that it be released in May. The studio’s  marketing department had to promote the movie without letting on that it took place at Christmas. Watch the trailer below to see how they accomplished this.

Miracle on 34th Street won four Academy Awards, losing out for Best Picture to Gentleman’s Agreement. The American Film Institute ranked it number nine in its list of inspiring movies, and as the number five fantasy movie of all time.



Album: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Soundtrack

The execs at CBS didn't know what to make of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Commercialism? The Bible? JAZZ??? But Vince Guaraldi's score won the day, and became an instant classic. Uploaded by untitledrecords.com.

Even today, it doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a jazz soundtrack to accompany an animated Christmas show. Certainly the executives at CBS in 1965 didn’t see how children would appreciate this very adult musical form. But Charles Schulz had vision, and Vince Guaraldi’s sparkling jazz balanced the sophisticated themes of commercialism and secularism that Schulz included in his story.

Uploaded by wantitall.co.za.

In the book A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition, executive producer Lee Mendelson discussed how he chose a jazz soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas (Great American Things, December 14, 2009). “Once we completed filming I had to add some music. I had always been a great fan of jazz, and while driving back from Sparky’s (Charles Schulz, ed.) I heard a song called ‘Cast Your Fate to the Wind.’ The radio announcer said it had won a Grammy and had been written and performed by a San Franciscan named Vince Guaraldi…It turned out that Vince was a big fan of Peanuts, and he agreed to work on the music.”

Several of the tracks are classics, including “Christmas Time Is Here” and “Linus and Lucy,” in which the characters memorably danced on the stage as Schroeder played the song on his piano.

By the way, the children who sang the hauntingly beautiful “Christmas Time Is Here” weren’t professional musicians. They were members of a children’s choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California. Was the best part getting to sing in a professional sound studio? Nope. It was getting to go out for ice cream afterward.

Holiday TV Show: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rankin/Bass created this stop-action animation version of Rudolph in 1964. It's now the longest-running animated Christmas program, which is just holly jolly with me. Uploaded by tvworthwatching.com.

Rudolph started life in a poem, written in 1939 by Robert L. May. His brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, liked the poem and turned it into the popular song we all know. Then in 1964, it took on new life as an animated television special on NBC. It’s now the longest-running animated Christmas special, and one of only four from the 60s still on. (The others are A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman.)

The TV special’s plot is necessarily a bit more complex than the song’s. There are additional characters, including prospector Yukon Cornelius, a reindeer

Uploaded by media.oregonlive.com.

babe named Clarice, a new reindeer named “Fireball,” and the arch-enemy — the Abominable Snowman. And there’s the narrator, Sam the Snowman, who just happens to resemble Burl Ives. How else would we have been able to hear “A Holly Jolly Christmas?”

The version we see now (on CBS) has been digitally remastered for enhanced clarity. The folks at Rankin/Bass created this stop-action animation classic. It looked clunky when it first appeared, and it looks positively antique in the age of Pixar. And yet, somehow, that’s part of its charm. That, and the music, and the story of Rudolph the underdog (underreindeer?) who saved Christmas. For many families, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a viewing of Rudolph.

Holiday: Andy Griffith Show Christmas Episode

The Christmas Story is the title of this memorable and touching episode, the only one The Andy Griffith Show ever made with a Christmas theme. Uploaded by wikipedia.org.

This is the first time a single episode of a TV show has been featured on this list, but this one is a logical choice. The Andy Griffith Show (Great American Things, April 20, 2009) was in its first season, and this was just its eleventh episode. But all the attributes that would make it one of America’s all-time favorite shows were on display from the start.

Uploaded by dvdizzy.com.

The plot – and I certainly hope this isn’t spoiling it for anyone, surely you’ve seen this episode – involved department store owner Ben Weaver insisting that family man Sam Muggins be put in jail for selling moonshine. Andy has no choice but to agree, knowing that it means Sam won’t spend Christmas with his family. Then he and Barney have the idea to move their Christmas celebration, complete with Barney dressing as Santa, to the jail and inviting the Muggins family.

Ben appears to be furious, but Andy soon realizes the miser has no one to celebrate Christmas with, and wants to join the celebration. Eventually, Ben has himself arrested so he can participate, but not before bringing gifts for everyone. Two interesting facts about this episode, titled “The Christmas Story”: It was the only one the show ever produced with a Christmas theme, and its cast included Margaret Kerry, the model for Tinkerbell in the animated classic Peter Pan.

As of now, the whole episode is available on YouTube:

Holiday: Toys for Tots

One woman wanted to donate a toy to a needy child, but couldn't find an organization to work with. So she asked her husband, a Marine reservist to help. He did - by starting Toys for Tots. Uploaded by cia.gov.

We all know, and are grateful for, the toughness of our U.S. Marines. But since the late 1940s, millions of American children are glad they have a softer side, too. A member of the Marine Corps Reserve, Major William L. Hendricks of California, learned there was no place to donate toys to kids when his wife wanted to give away a handmade doll. He started an organization locally, and gave away 5,000 toys that first Christmas. The Marine Corps Reserve adopted the program and took it nationally the following year (1948).

Uploaded by cia.gov.

For many years, people could donate new or used toys. Marines would fix the old ones before they were given away. The program was so successful that not enough time was available for refurbishing used toys, and only new ones have been accepted since 1980. A separate organization, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, now exists to provide fundraising and operational support for the program.

Toys for Tots has often been a favorite project of America’s First Ladies. Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Michelle Obama have made the charity one of their priorities. Between their efforts and that of the Marine Reserve, they’ve obviously been hugely successful: the charity has collected and delivered more than 500 million toys.

Food: Life Savers

In the five flavors roll of Life Safers, watermelon and raspberry replaced lemon and lime. Is that an improvement? Uploaded by bewarethecheese.com.

Pep-O-Mint Life Savers came first, back in 1912. The second flavor introduced was Wint-O-Green. The best flavor ever, Butter Rum, came out in the 1920s, and then the iconic five-flavor roll made its debut in 1935.

Though they were called Life Savers from the beginning, the technology to make a hole in the middle of the candy wasn’t invented until 1925. Other flavors were introduced in those early years that weren’t so successful included Cl-O-ve, Lic-O-Riche, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-let and Choc-O-Late. They stayed around for a long time, but never captured the public’s taste.

Uploaded by icefoundry.co.uk.

The original five flavors, which stayed the same for half a century, were lemon, lime, orange, cherry, and pineapple. Today, raspberry and watermelon have taken the place of lemon and lime. I’m sure that’s in line with tastes today, but it seems just wrong somehow .

Perhaps you received a “book” of Life Savers in your Christmas stocking. What a great treat that lasted long after you’d put away most of the toys Santa brought. As I said, Butter Rum was my favorite, and still is. A friend happened to offer one of these great candies to me this week and I remembered just how much I love them. They taste every bit as good as they did when I was a kid, and you can’t say that very often.